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Large dairy, digesters on priorities for EDC board

WILLMAR -- Developing the dairy industry in Kandiyohi County was listed as the number one objective for the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission's Agriculture and Renewable Energy Development Committee.

The committee, in 2006, listed a series of goals focusing on developing the dairy industry in the county. The goals including cataloging vacant livestock facilities for smaller dairy relocation and identifying bare land areas conducive to the requirements for 1,000 to 5,000 cow dairy complex.

Also including the list was discussing expansion opportunities, with a diary developer and local investors, to build a 5,000-cow dairy in the county. At the time, the cost of constructing such a facility was estimated at $50 million or more.

Further down on the list were goals of collaborating with the department of agriculture for promotion of California dairy producer relocation efforts, researching Dutch milk producer relocation opportunities, researching dairy processing opportunities and working with area replacement heifer producers to incorporate their opportunities with dairy expansion in the county.

Kim Larson, who was formerly employed by the EDC to work with the ag committee, stressed that the dairy industry in Kandiyohi County was following the same strong decline seen across Minnesota. Without controlling the losses, the county dairy herd is estimated at just 6,000 head.

According to the Minnesota Farm and Food Coalition, each dairy cow represents up to $14,000 in economic activity. In a 10-year period ending in 2002, the state had lost 173,000 dairy cows, about 26 percent of the state's dairy population.